UI-Carle med school partnership urged

UI-Carle med school partnership urged

URBANA — A consultant has recommended the University of Illinois partner with the Carle health system to develop a new, engineering-based medical college.

The new college would tap into the abundance of biosciences research on campus and the top-rated College of Engineering, whose researchers are already actively developing medical technology, said the report from Tripp Umbach, a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm hired by Carle and the UI.

It would be "the nation's first medical school designed for the express purpose of fusing engineering, computing, health sciences and medicine," a place where physician-scientists would shape the future of health care delivery, practice and technology, advance health care and improve patient outcomes, grow the state's biotech industry and be a "magnet for innovation and scholarship," touted a joint letter emailed to the campus community Friday by Chancellor Phyllis Wise and Carle's president and CEO Dr. James Leonard.

The consulting firm said the new college should not rely on state funding but rather be governed by a private corporate structure created by Carle and the UI's Urbana campus.

The report, released Friday, is available online at go.illinois.edu/collegeofmedicinestudy.

The new college of medicine would open in fall 2017 and replace the current regional medical school at Urbana, which is considered a regional campus of the UI's College of Medicine in Chicago. But the report also foresees continued collaboration with the Chicago medical college. Students would graduate with a UI degree.

The report also recommends construction of a $100 million specialized medical facility to open in 2025.

Start-up costs were estimated at $100 million. Consultants also envisioned a $200 million endowment, mostly from private sources, as well as annual operating revenue of $22 million in the college's early years and $47 million when it is fully operational in 2021.

Spokeswomen from the campus and Carle declined to provide much insight beyond what was written in a letter sent to the campus.

"We can't expand a lot on the report because we just received it. We're looking forward to reading it and digging into it," said Carle spokeswoman Jennifer Hendricks-Kaufmann. "We're in the analysis phase. We're excited about the possibilities," she added.

Chancellor Phyllis Wise was unavailable Friday afternoon. Spokeswoman Robin Kaler also deflected questions about the feasibility of the idea until campus officials can review the report more closely.

"We've got to look at everything they're saying and see how it meshes with our reality," she said.

Both the UI Board of Trustees and Carle's board would have to approve the new entity.

According to the report, the new medical school would admit its first class in fall 2017 and eventually accept 50 students per year within the first six years of operation. It would build on engineering and science research programs to train "physician scientists" and "physician engineers" in biomedical research, who would hold joint degrees in engineering, computer science and other sciences.

The current college of medicine in Urbana has 165 medical students who are following the traditional medical school education and who will earn an M.D. from UIC. Most of them are in their first year.

The college also is home to the Medical Scholars program. Those students work on an M.D. (from UIC) plus a Ph.D., J.D. or MBA from the Urbana-Champaign campus. There currently are 122 medical scholars. The college also has 18 full-time faculty, five part-time basic sciences faculty and 46 part-time clinical faculty. Several Carle physicians also have joint appointments with the college.

The goal of the new college would be to "revolutionize the delivery of health care" by integrating advanced technology, transform the quality and efficiency of regional health care, strengthen the university statewide, promote bioscience economic development and be an "international magnet" for innovation and research, the report said.

Ongoing funding would come from grants and contracts, clinical revenue-sharing, tuition, philanthropy, and income from the commercialization of medical technology. The consultants estimate having a medical college on the Urbana campus could generate a "significant increase" in funding from the National Institutes of Health, based on the millions of dollars in NIH funding that now go to medical schools that collaborate with UI researchers here.

Consultants called for a business plan to be developed in 2014 and an application for medical education accreditation to be finalized in 2015. A new dean would be recruited in 2015, who would then recruit five assistant professors, five full professors, 20 clinical research faculty and 20 clinical teaching faculty to teach and conduct research in the new college. Twelve additional staff memmbers would be hired for fundraising and administrative support, according to the report.

"There is no U.S. public research university better positioned than Illinois to leverage the convergence of engineering with medicine and be a leader in the transformation of health care research, education, practice and delivery," Wise and Leonard wrote in the letter.

A small, highly specialized medical school developed through the public-private partnership is preferable to a traditional, clinically focused training model designed to meet physician work force needs, the report said.

The consultant recommended that a name incorporating both partners be created immediately to avoid confusion with the existing UI College of Medicine in Chicago.

"This unique public-private medical school, organized as a private entity, has the advantage of shared governance and risk, as well as the flexibility to add multiple partners and adapt to rapid changes in health care, education, and science. The model also allows partners to avoid conflicts with the UIC College of Medicine, the state's publicly-supported college of medicine that currently trains more physicians (largely primary care physicians) than any other medical education program in the United States," the report said.

Consultants studied two other models, including a new college of medicine developed through stronger alignment with the existing College of Medicine at the UI Chicago; and a larger regional college of medicine with partner hospital systems in bothe Urbana-Champaign and Peoria.

Tripp Umbach argued the development of a new private college of medicine would free up more state funding support for the UI College of Medicine in Chicago. The two could also partner on clinical trials and bioengineering innovations, the report said.

The consultants also recommend that the new entity create partnerships with other health care, education and industry, such as the Mayo Clinic, which already works with the campus on genomics research.

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